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Where or what would you eat on your first day in Hawaii?

This question is posed to everyone, whether you’re an expat coming back home, an experienced Hawaii visitor, or a newcomer, a.k.a. “malahini”.

Being a lifetime Kama’aina (resident) myself, here’s my list of suggestions for you on the island of Oahu:

  • Hawaiian food – Highway Inn, Helena’s, Ono’s, Young’s, People’s Cafe
  • Plate lunch – Zippy’s, Richie’s Drive In, Rainbow Drive-In
  • Manapua – Libby’s, Char Hung Sut, Chun Wah Kam
  • Okazuya – Toshi’s, Gulick Delicatessen, Matsumoto’s, Mitsuba, Mitsuken, Nuuanu, Fukuya, St. Louis Delicatessen
  • Poke – Ono Seafood, Tanioka’s
  • Local comfort food – Oxtail Soup (Pho Bistro 2, Asahi Grill or The Alley), Saimin (Zippy’s Zip Min or Palace Saimin)
  • Store or open market – Yataimura Food Court @ Shirokiya, KCC Farmers Market
  • Anykine local grinds – Alicia’s Market, Marujyu Market, Masa & Joyce
  • Fine dining- Alan Wong’s, Roy’s (preferably Hawaii Kai)
  • Bakery- Kamehameha, Liliha, Leonard’s
  • Shave Ice – Shimazu, Waiola, Matsumoto
  • Wherever you grew up eating at in your home town (for me that would be Kin Wah Chop Suey in Kaneohe)
  • Who wants to eat? Hit the beach or sit by the pool sippin’ on Mai Tais all day long!

Stress, this must be your FIRST DAY in Hawaii, as one of those I MUST EAT THIS FIRST deals!

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People’s Cafe Hawaiian Kaukau (food!)


Rainbow Drive-In Teriyaki Beef Plate Lunch (“Teri’ Plate”)


St. Louis Delicatessen Okazuya Plate: Corned Beef Hash, Vegetable TEmpura, Nishime, Konbu, Shoyu Hot Dog and Chow Funn


Libby Manapua Shop’s steamed Charsiu Manapua, Pork Hash and Half Moon


Ono Seafood made-to-order Ahi Poke


Asahi Grill (sister restaurant to Kapiolani Coffee Shop) Oxtail Soup & Fried Rice


Alicia’s Market – Roasted Turkey Tails and Charsiu Pork Ribs combination plate, with Kim Chee and Potato-Mac’ Salad

 


Kin Wah Chop Suey lunch special: Kau Yuk, Spareribs, Beef Broccoli, Crisp Gau Gee, Fried Shrimp and Rice.


The finest Hawaii Regional Cuisine from Alan Wong’s

Awesome pastries at great prices from Kamehameha Bakery (I say “Kam” Bakery :-P)


Shimazu Shave Ice Melon Bar & Creamsicle Shave Ice

39 thoughts on “Where or what would you eat on your first day in Hawaii?

  • August 22, 2014 at 10:07 am
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    Soft Gau Gee Mein with cake noodles at Golden City Restaurant in Kalihi.

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  • August 22, 2014 at 10:30 am
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    Gotta be mom’s cooking. That’s what I would be craving. Otherwise probably swing by Young’s and then Tamashiro’s on the way home from the airport for some Hawaiian food and poke.
    When family is returning from the mainland, usually the first thing they want is shave ice and Zippy’s.

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  • August 22, 2014 at 12:38 pm
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    My cousins would head to some okazuya place for there none in San Francisco and Kam Bakery. They like Char Hung Sut the most.Would visit local supermarket like Foodland and Time for they got special food and save time too.

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  • August 22, 2014 at 12:38 pm
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    @ K I – Excellent answer. For those lucky enough to come to mom or grandma’s cooking, that’s always the best! Speaking of Tamashiro’s, that’s another place I need to add to my blogging soon-to-do list. Added!

    @ Lalena – Golden City Chinese restaurant, aye? Never been. Right across where Kam Bakery (I said it!) used to be. I’ll have to check them out!

    @ Anello Grande – Ever try the Malasadas from Champion or Agnes’ Portuguese Bake Shop in Kailua? Personally I think Punahou Carnival has the best Malasadas. Actually, being half Portuguese myself, ironically I’m not really a Malasada fan. Speaking of Agnes Bake Shop in Kailua, the Portuguese Festa will be held in the Kailua Macy’s parking lot this year in October. Why there, I don’t know.


    Punahou Carnival Malasadas

    @ Amy – Speaking of hitting Foodland or Times to save time (one-stop shop), I’d probably have Shirokiya on my short list of places to eat on my first day back home on Oahu. :-)

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    • August 22, 2014 at 12:59 pm
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      They sure will head there for the bento boxes food. That something special also.not in San Francisco.

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  • August 22, 2014 at 1:01 pm
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    Pomai, my friends and I like Mcdonald for their saimin and sausage and eggs with rice and taro pies.

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  • August 22, 2014 at 2:01 pm
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    Kelike, based on my last 2 experiences with McDonald’s Saimin, that’s the LAST PLACE you want to get that from. As cliche as it sounds, Your’e better off with the superior and proven Zippy’s Zip Min. Da’ best! Next to them, I choose Palace Saimin in Kalihi for best Saimin on Oahu.


    Zippy’s Zip Min


    Palace Wonton Min

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  • August 22, 2014 at 2:03 pm
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    Used to be Zippy’s on the way in from the airport. Now it’s Rainbow.

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  • August 22, 2014 at 2:35 pm
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    Dang….hard question. Kinda depends what time I got off the plane and how hungry I was. Ox tail soup, Zippy’s chili, the largest bento box I could find from the nearest okazu, …… this is hard.

    Basically something that has not already been lovingly recreated by the expats who moved to the mainland and set up shop.

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  • August 22, 2014 at 3:37 pm
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    Here on Maui, when college students or former residents come back to Maui, they head straight to Sam Sato’s. Or Tasaka Guri Guri, since it’s near the airport, and on the way home if you live in Kahului or Wailuku.

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    • August 23, 2014 at 9:00 am
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      And Da Kitchen in Kahalui. Tante for Filipino.

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  • August 22, 2014 at 4:59 pm
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    @ David – Yup, same here. First full day on Maui for me is Sam Sato’s in Wailuku for da’ Dry Noodles and Tasaka’s Guri Guri in Kahului. While there at Maui Mall, I also always take a stroll through Ah Fook’s to see if anything’s new. My newest discovery (even though they’ve been there long time) is Takamiya Market in Wailuku. DO NOT leave Maui without checking out that market. So much ono ‘kine local grindz! Makes Alicia’s Market look like 7-Eleven! lol

    @ArnyB – That’s true. Oxtail Soup is a good one! I’m adding that to the master list. Best Oxtail Soup on Oahu is of course at Kapiolani Coffee Shop, along with their sister restaurant Asahi Grill on Ward Ave. I also highly recommend the Oxtail Soup from Pho Bistro 2 on Kalakaua and Makaloa St (by Don Quijote), as well as the Oxtail Soup from The Alley Restaurant at Aiea Bowl. Those latter two are my favorites.

    @ Traci Jay – Why the switch from Zippy’s to Rainbow Drive-In? Can’t beat Zippy’s for consistency and convenience. I’ll give it to Rainbow Drive-In for having that nostalgic old school Hawaii plate lunch drive-in look and feel, while they also still serve their ROUND plates in the classic cardboard box with the wax paper on top. LOVE THAT!

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    • August 23, 2014 at 11:19 am
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      Yep, Takamiya Market! I’ve been going there since I was a kid. They have good bentos, musubis, potato and mac salad and pistachio booze cake, my fave!

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  • August 23, 2014 at 3:22 am
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    How can you leave Side Street Inn off of the list? That’s where I send everyone who asks me where to go in Oahu for good local food. And like Anello above, Leonard’s is a must!

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  • August 23, 2014 at 3:51 am
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    My cousins like good old style Cantonese chow mein at Oahu Market cause no where in San Francisco make that way. Enjoyed the rustic looks of the open market. They like anywhere that sell mai tai su pastries another one only in Oahu.

    Since you know lot songs of Hawaii do you know who sang No Hu Hu. My late first use played that song sung by some Chinese entertainer. And another song Bum By my mom heard many time on radio when she was young.

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    • August 23, 2014 at 7:04 am
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      Amy: go to YouTube and type in “no huhu” in the search window. Don’t put any spaces in “huhu.” You’ll find a whole bunch of stuff.

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      • August 23, 2014 at 7:13 am
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        Found “Bumbye” too! All one word at YouTube again. Give it a try & good luck!

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  • August 23, 2014 at 3:59 am
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    @ Amy – The only “No Hu Hu” “song” I remember, is the jingle for Magoo’s Pizza. “No Hu Hu Call Magoo’s.”

    Don’t recall “Bum Bye”, however please let me know more about that one!

    If I stand correct, most of the old school Chinese restaurants on Oahu are Hong Kong Cantonese “style” in origin. And with that, from what I understand, Hawaii has several dishes that are unique to the islands, with “cake noodle” being one of them.

    @ sjthespian – Side Street Inn (famous for their fried pork chops) is a great suggestion. So much so, I’ve spoken with flight crews staying in Waikiki that were seeking out Side Street Inn as “the place” to go, as heard from by their peers. In fact, I was just there (at the original location on Hopaka Street near Ala Moana) a few weeks ago, enjoying conversation with “Kona” Wally!


    Side Street Inn’s famous Pork Chops (homemade), with Rogue Side Street Inn Ale

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  • August 23, 2014 at 4:27 am
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    Pomai, the food stalls at Oahu Market make Chow Mein that different from the restaurants for it less greasy with char siu and bean sprouts and onion in it. My parents like it very much. It really old school. These songs really old school my parents remember it well. Ron Tish and & Co. sang it and Ben Young played manapua man on stage sang No Hu Hu.

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  • August 23, 2014 at 12:09 pm
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    That poll needs an “all of the above” option! Too hard to choose! I think it is the hardest to get good poke anywhere on the mainland, though.

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  • August 23, 2014 at 12:25 pm
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    @ Aldona Dye – The MULTIPLE CHOICE option was purposely turned off, as I want the answers to be decisive, similar to if someone asked you “What would be your last meal on earth?” Oahu really is a tough place to decide where to eat, as there’s so many GREAT options nowadays!

    BTW, I checked out your Google+ link, and am curious where you’re from. Aldona is a really cool name! By your avatar, I’m guessing your either Danish, or um… Swedish?

    @ Kelike – I found “Bum-Bye” by Ron Tish & Co. on YouTube, however, there isn’t any “No hu hu” in that song’s particular lyrics. He does say “There’s no need for worry, no need for hurry”, which is sort of what “no hu hu” means. I believe “no hu hu actually means “don’t get angry”.

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    • August 23, 2014 at 12:34 pm
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      The song No HuHu sang by Ben Young on YouTube. He dress as a manapua man on stage.

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    • August 24, 2014 at 5:44 am
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      Hah! That’s an interesting assessment. I’m a born and raised Kaimuki girl, but Aldona is a Lithuanian name passed down to me from my grandma. I don’t even remotely look like I’m from Hawaii anymore thanks to being haole and spending the last 8 years on the mainland for school.

      I visit home about once a year, and thanks to this blog I always come with a list of things I have to eat before going back! Talk about “food porn”!

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  • August 24, 2014 at 4:10 am
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    Thanks Pomai, my cousins heard it and like it and mom like it for brought old times when she was heard it on the radio. The song No HuHu. is funny due to performer trying push manapuas. My late first cousin love that song for it funny.

    Thanks Big Boy Chan for helping also.

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  • August 24, 2014 at 8:56 am
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    Aldona (love that name!),

    Lithuanian, aye? And from Kaimuki (Bull Dogs), none-the-less! lol Who would’ve thought. I take it you’re pre-med?

    Same here. I live in Waikiki and mingle with tourists A LOT. And every one of of them always asks, “where are you from?”, thinking mostly I’m from either a.) California, or get this… b.) Chicago? Somehow my 25% Hawaiian blood “confuses” my 75% “Haole” (mixed European) blood, looks-wise, where people can’t really define what I am, ethnically. It’s fun though, as it brings up interesting conversations.

    Amy,

    This one…

    Reply
  • August 24, 2014 at 12:56 pm
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    As of this comment, the poll stands at:

    Where or what would you eat on your first day in Hawaii?

    • Plate lunch – e.g. Zippy’s, Richie’s Drive In, Rainbow Drive-In 42.86% (39 votes)

    • Hawaiian food – e.g. Highway Inn, Helena’s, Ono’s, Young’s & People’s Cafe 13.19% (12 votes)

    • Okazuya – e.g. Toshi’s, Gulick, Mitsuba, Mitsuken, Nuuanu, Fukuya, St. Louis Delicatessen 12.09% (11 votes)

    • Poke – e.g. Ono Seafood, Tanioka’s 8.79% (8 votes)

    • My favorite hometown eatery (if they’re still around) 4.4% (4 votes)

    Other (I’ll elaborate in comments) 4.4% (4 votes)

    • Manapua – e.g. Libby’s, Char Hung Sut, Chun Wah Kam 3.3% (3 votes)

    • Anykine local grinds- e.g. Alicia’s Market, Marujyu Market, Masa & Joyce 3.3% (3 votes)

    • Bakery – e.g. Kamehameha, Liliha, Leonard’s 2.2% (2 votes)

    • Shave Ice – e.g. Shimazu, Waiola, Matsumoto 2.2% (2 votes)

    • Local comfort food – e.g. Oxtail Soup, Saimin, Loco Moco 1.1% (1 votes)

    • Ethnic cuisine (other than Hawaiian) – e.g. Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Puerto Rican, Vietnamese 1.1% (1 votes)

    • Who wants to eat? I’m hittin’ the beach or sittin’ by the pool sippin’ on Mai Tais all day long! 1% (1 votes)

    • Fine dining – e.g. Alan Wong’s, Roy’s 0% (0 votes)

    Total Votes: 91

    ——————————————————-

    I’m actually surprised plate lunch dominated the votes. You know, with everyone being health conscious nowadays, and all that.

    Good to see Hawaiian food at second place, however personally I think, being this is HAWAII, that should be top priority for visitors to the islands, and Hawaiian food would probably be in my top 3 choices of first food to eat when returning home. After all, you can’t get fresh poi and lovingly-made Laulau and Squid Luau from anywhere else in the world but Hawaii.

    Also good to see Okazuya up there in votes, as that would also be in my top 3 first places to eat when coming home. Personally, I’d hit St. Louis Delicatessen, as they’re my go-to fave’, plus most convenient from where I live.

    The last of my top 3 would be “Anykine local grindz”, with Alicia’s Market my first stop on the way back home on the airport, being they’re tight along that beaten path on Nimitz Highway. I think there should be a sign at Honolulu International Airport’s baggage claim area that says, “ON YOUR WAY TO WAIKIKI, MAKE SURE TO STOP BY ALICIA’S MARKET”.

    Odd that out of 91 votes, not one person wanted fine dining on your first day in Hawaii. Cheap @ss b@stards. LOL!!!

    Reply
  • August 25, 2014 at 4:03 am
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    Pomai:
    We can be health-conscious anytime… coming home to Hawaii is all about the re-connection to the islands. What better way than digging into the familiar “comfort food” memories? Hopefully, after that first inital teri plate from Rainbows, the dozen malasadas, couple of manapua and porkhash, kim chee fried rice, kalua pig and laulau, gau gee min, meat jun, etc., you can start eating healthy, maybe by week two? By the way, on my last trip, I tried a lee hing mui malasada… oh wow, what had I been missing all this time?

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  • August 25, 2014 at 7:34 am
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    Hey Pomai- Have you ever visited the Hawaiian Chip Factory right around the corner from Alicia’s market? It is definately one of my first stops after landing on Oahu. You can get a freshly made bag of taro and/or sweet potato chips for $5/bag and can then season them any way that you want. On Saturdays they also have a drink bar open and I think that they also sell kalua pig sliders on that day too. Really ono stuff and a place that you need to check out/review if you have never been there before.

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  • August 25, 2014 at 11:30 am
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    Russ,

    I did not know Hawaiian Chip Company’s factory outlet had that elaborate walk-in feature. I’ll definitely check it out. Thanks! They recently started a booth at the Saturday KCC Farmers Market on alternate weekends.

    Keith-San,

    Yeah, that’s a good point. As for your comfort food list, don’t forget Kaimuki’s W&M Teri’ Burger fix!

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    • August 26, 2014 at 11:02 am
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      The bagged chips that they sell at the KCC Farmers Market and at other places taste great, but the freshly made to order ones are at least 10x better which is why the store is a must stop from the airport. If you visit them, make sure that you talk to one of the owners (Jimmy & Kammy) who are super nice people.

      Reply
  • August 27, 2014 at 1:20 pm
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    First stop right out of HNL is ALWAYS Zippy’s on Nimitz!

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  • August 27, 2014 at 10:48 pm
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    @ Angela – sounding like a broken record, also consider on your way back from HNL, Diamond Head-bound (east) on Nimitz Highway (all mauka-side):

    • Alicia’s Market – turn right on Mokauea St.
    • Libby Manapua Shop – turn left on Kalihi St.
    • Chun Wah Kam Noodle Factory – turn left on Kalihi St.
    • Kamehameha Bakery – turn left on Waiakamilo Road, then right on Kalani Street
    • Liliha Bakery – new location at the former Sam Choy’s, just past Hilo Hattie and then Zippy’s on Nimitz Hwy.
    • Highway Inn Kaka’ako – corner of Ala Moana Blvd. and Coral St., right across the old Gold Bond Building

    Reply
  • September 5, 2014 at 9:59 am
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    I would probably choose to have a plate lunch from Rainbow Drive-In, but my first meal is generally from Kin Wah Chop Suey. Since it’s close to my mom’s, we usually stop there for take out to take to my mom’s.

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  • September 5, 2014 at 10:56 am
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    Ok, I’ve got a slightly different twist. Always when I come to Hawaii, I’m with at least 3 others (my wife and kids). We’ve stopped at Alicia’s, Pho 2, Rainbow, Leonard’s, etc. But let me toss this one out there. How about the Ala Moana Center? Between Foodland, the Makai Market food court, and the Shirokiya food court, the selection alone is almost overwhelming. Chinese, Hawaiian, Korean, Thai, Italian, Japanese, American… I could go on and on. Now I realize there are better restaurants to get, say, Hawaiian food on Oahu. But if I want lau lau or curry, and the wife wants green papaya salad or kalbi, and daughter 1 wants a kim chee tako poke bowl, and daughter 2 wants a nice bowl of ramen and a small ahi sashimi set, well. It’s all in one place, most of it’s pretty damned good, the prices aren’t off the hook, and everyone is happy! Just a thought.

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    • September 5, 2014 at 9:32 pm
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      Actually we do the same because we all got to settle down. So Poi Bowl for beef stew Lahaina Chicken for the misses. Foodland for poke.

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      • September 6, 2014 at 10:19 am
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        BBC, Ala Moana ‘ got everyone covered for sure. Including AFTER you eat, where while your wife and daughters spend hours shopping, you can hang at Mai Tai Bar to catch all the football games!

        Just wanna’ say I’m so glad that “ghosts of my past” aren’t at AMC anymore. ;-)

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  • September 6, 2014 at 5:37 pm
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    Live in Hawaii half the time. Coming in from HNL, first stop Alica’s for dinner to take up the hill. Second, Costco to load up the refridg. Pattern is so established, the guys at Alica’s always ask, “wen you get in?”

    Reply

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